How WE do it…… (or, what we want the most………..)

How WE do it…… (or what we want the most….)

 

This little blog piece, comes after a brief discussion I just had with a customer, and I think it warrants writing down, so I don’t have to repeat it so many times……

Scan Pro Audio:

Scan Pro Audio (and for that matter the Pro Video and Pro Graphics side), has grown organically out of our core business of manufacturing award winning PC’s.

Our Audio PC’s are used by some of the biggest artists/producers/studios in Europe, and as our PC’s became more successful, so there was some pressure on Scan to carry the ‘logical’ add-ons to the system itself, i.e. Soundcards, Speakers etc.

Eventually, it became obvious that a separate ‘Pro Audio’ division was necessary, and Scan Pro audio was born.

So what’s so different about us?

Hokay….

First off, We don’t carry everything…..

Let’s say that again…..

We don’t carry everything…..

Let’s try and explain this philosophy………

Say, that someone comes to town, and they want to buy a Vocal microphone, and they have £200.00 to spend.

They visit shop “A”, who say “OK, which brand were you looking for?”

Now at this point we need to consider Shop A’s options…..

They want the business, and will do anything possible to stop the customer going elsewhere.

They will have certain microphones that they carry in stock, because they have a ‘deal’ with the manufacturer, and obviously these will be the first they suggest, the customer may find that if they enquire about a different brand, it’s put down as inferior or not as reliable, and they’ll push hard to supply the ones they stock, and it will be argued by some that this is just ‘good business’.

So maybe our visitor goes to shop “B”, and this dealer is one of many, especially dealers with an on-line presence, that claim to have ANY microphone you request in stock, they will take payment, and then tell you the item is one its way. (Only, the next phone call they make after speaking to you is straight to the manufacturer, to order the item in question, and when you subsequently call to chase your order, they will fob you off with a tale of computer stock errors and re-stocking problems, but it’ll be with you within the next couple of days, and they’ll phone you as soon as it’s in etc………)

 

We however, do things a little bit differently to most other retailers….

You see, it may be that we only carry 2 makes of microphone.

And we’ll tell you that.

And that may seem a small amount, not a huge choice…..

It may be that you have heard great things about one of the brands that we don’t carry,

You may even have seen a great review.

And we’ll accept that.

But we will ONLY carry stock that we know, and believe in.

We will ONLY carry stock that we have had first-hand experience of ourselves.

We will ONLY carry stock that we believe to be the best value for YOUR money.

We have spent literally thousands of man-hours, testing, evaluating and re-testing equipment, until we know this stuff really well. ( We once loaded one of every monitor speaker we could get our hands on, and drove it to Tom’s studio facility, where over 2 days we proceeded to test every speaker, not only in isolation, but in combination  with each other……)

And we will never recommend any product that hasn’t been tested or used by at least one of our team, in a professional capacity.

(Our bench-testing for Sound cards, is extremely rigorous. We are one of only two places in the world using the bench-test, the other is in Australia, and he’s the guy that invented the programme…)

That way, whenever we do sell you something, we know that it will be totally fit for purpose, and the best value you could hope for.

You’ll also know that WE know what we’re talking about……

And that way, you’ll learn to trust us.

And once you trust us, you’ll be happy to come back and take our advice again ,

And that…..

Is what we want the most…..

Cubase 7: Voxengo Curve EQ

 

Voxengo Curve EQ:

Within Cubase 7 is a plug-in with a feature, which in essence has been around a while, but Voxengo really do make it easy to use…

 

I’m talking ‘Spectrum matching function’ and it’s very cool.

 

Most of us have a favourite album where the production is just perfect, and we’d give anything to emulate it (mine happens to be Jellyfish’s  “Spilt Milk”, but there you go…)

 

Whatever genre or style, the Voxengo Curve EQ can analyse it and apply it to the current mix you’re working on, and once you’ve learnt how to do it, it can be invaluable as a tool for mastering in different genres (Country and Western advert ?  I’ll just strap Dolly’s EQ across it!!!)

 

Spectrum matching function is accessible via the “Static Spectrum Editor” window

(which is opened by the “Static & Match” button on the user interface).

 

Here’s the skinny from the manual…..

 

When you perform spectrum matching it is suggested to switch spectrum type in the

“Spectrum Mode Editor” to “Avg” so that average spectrum is used for matching

instead of a default real-time spectrum which may give inconsistent matching results.

You also need to run the averaging for several seconds until the visible spectrum

becomes smooth enough. After achieving the required spectrum shape on the screen

you can press the “Take” (or “Take 2nd”) button once in the static spectrum slot to

store this spectrum for matching purposes. Note that if there is no secondary

spectrum available (it was not configured in the “Spectrum Mode Editor”), the “Take

2nd” button will appear dimmed.

You need at least two spectrum snapshots in two slots for matching. The spectrum

you would like to equalize and the reference spectrum should be marked with the

“Apply To” and “Reference” switches, respectively. You can define more than one

“Apply to” or “Reference” spectrum – in that case the “average of two” spectrum will

be used.

 

You need at least two spectrum snapshots in two slots for matching. The spectrum

you would like to equalize and the reference spectrum should be marked with the

“Apply To” and “Reference” switches, respectively. You can define more than one

“Apply to” or “Reference” spectrum – in that case the “average of two” spectrum will

be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The point is that for any of you guys out there working in different styles, or producing ‘soundalikes’, this is a hell of a plug-in for helping you to achieve a believable end result.

 

Oh, and as I said earlier, Cubase 7 Rocks as well!!        LN48346.

Home Piano's: A return to cool……

The Home Piano: A return to cool……

Over the years, all the leading manufacturers, Korg, Yamaha and Roland have enjoyed healthy sales in the area of ‘Home Piano’.

These instruments have evolved over time, from garish looking, Japanese style influenced, plastic wood finished monstrosities that sounded like high end musical boxes, to extremely sleek pieces of furniture with on-board sounds indistinguishable from the real things they emulate, whether that was a Grand piano, an electric piano, or a clavinet/harpsichord.

However, they were always fraught with the idea, that a family would buy one, and then be faced with the extra costs of tuition, books and the possibility that the kids would get bored learning ‘Chopsticks’ and give up on the thing.

So why, are Home Piano sales very much on the rise, and why is piano playing cool again?  

Look no further than You Tube.

Nowadays, your teenage daughter or indeed Dad himself, can find pretty much any song or style they want to learn, and you can almost guarantee someone out there has put up a video showing you how to play it. Just stick your iPad or laptop on the top of the piano, and you’re away…..

With all the ease of the  online video, (slow it down, pull it back, repeat sections), kids are learning to play music they know and like, in a fraction of the time it used to take via traditional methods, and its making piano playing cool again!

Check it out for yourself, go to You Tube and enter ‘Katy Perry Firework’ for example, followed by ‘piano tuition’, and then, when you’ve seen how easy it can be, check back at the Scan site to see our range of very reasonably priced home pianos.

Go on, gather round the Piano this Christmas………….

LN46700

CUBASE 7 is Here!!!!!

CUBASE 7: I’m very excited.

 

So, it’s here!!

Forget Christmas, it’s the release of Steinberg’s Cubase 7, and I for one can’t wait.

What’s so exciting?

Well pretty much everything…..

Starting with the overhaul of the mixing page (which can incidentally now be full screen), with its extremely flexible channel layout, 12 dB boost and dedicated processing power per channel, what they’re calling an ‘exceptional’ feel to the controls and comprehensive online and offline automation tools, MixConsole has been built to provide uncompromising audio quality and routing flexibility from the outset, with plenty of pristine headroom and a fundamentally transparent sonic signature.

It also looks cool! The Channel strip seems intuitive and has some built in usefulness from the start with the strip divided into sections including a Noise Gate, EQ, Compression, Saturation and Limiting, all movable  to wherever you want them, and with an Inserts effects track at the very top to show where the signals being sent.

 

Next up, Chord track.

This is either going to be brilliant, or the biggest waste of time ever.

It’s basically an extension of the VariAudio function, which analyses your track for harmonic content,  and then presumably makes suggestions as to Harmony or alternative Bass lines etc. based on what it see’s.

Whether or not this is going to be of any use to the more advanced musician (and I presume Cubase users at this level to have some musical knowledge) remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a handy function if your own level of musical competence isn’t able to suggest ideas for itself……

On the ‘up’ side, Steinberg are claiming that the ability to create lead sheets for other musicians has never been easier.

Intelligent composing assistance:

Again, this is either going to be a superb aide to writers or, it’s going to result in thousands of homogenised chord sheets, all sounding like a Gershwin Rhapsody whilst travelling from a I to a IV chord.

In essence, they are claiming that you could enter a start chord and an end chord, and the composing assistant will offer you a myriad of chords for the middle. Whether this has any benefit to originality I have my doubts, but I look forward to a whole ruck of Harmonically sophisticated dub step tracks…….

 

 

 

 

Pure tuning:

Clever this.

Most composers know of the difficulty of pairing ‘fixed tuning’ instruments like guitars and pianos, with variable tuning instruments like trombones or violins.

‘Hermode’ tuning  allows you to….well, here’s what they say…

“Thanks to the Hermode tuning technology, the intonation of your synthesized notes are changed dynamically on the fly for utmost compatibility with well-tempered scales, while retaining a high degree of purity for third and fifth intervals “

We await with baited breath…………

 

VARI AUDIO 2:

This seems to be a superb update to an already ‘must-have’ technology.

Basically the engine works with the aforementioned ‘Chord Track’ to ensure all your harmonies are at the correct pitch. It will allow you to take a lead vocal and wrap harmony parts around it all day long, with varying levels of sophistication.

It will also provide the well known ‘AutoTune effect’, for those who like that sort of thing……  and, you’ll be able to edit multiple VariAudio parts across multiple tracks within one editor only!

 

CUBASE HUB:

Cubase sports the new Steinberg Hub loaded with tons of helpful information.

Alongside the enhanced Project Assistant you now find a list of regularly updated video tutorials and RSS feeds to keep you informed about important Cubase updates, support news or product releases.

 

So these are just a few of the advances ‘right out of the box’.

All in all, it looks like a very substantial re-working, of perhaps the most famous DAW on the market.

Its smoother and easier on the eye, and I look forward to ‘discovering’ things along the way, as always.     LN48346.

 

Korg KRONOS for Christmas?

KRONOS for CHRISTMAS?

So, its nearly that time of year. That time of year when professional musicians face the age old conundrum….new gear for Christmas?

You see, most gigging musicians know that at this time of the year, there are usually more and better paid gigs, which means a touch more money in the coffers, but also, it’s a time when you think long and hard about your gear. Would I sound a LOT better if I had the latest ‘so & so’ from ‘such a company’….. If I sounded a lot better, would I get more gigs, If I got more gigs, the new gear would have paid for itself in no time, and actually, by not getting the latest kit, I’m harming my core business etc.

And so, it is, that eventually the Pro musician will convince himself he has to have the latest piece of kit, and as far as we’re concerned, for Pro Keyboards players, it’s the new KORG KRONOS X.

So what are you getting in real terms?

Let’s have a look at what they say, and what it means to you……

 

 

KRONOS X Highlights

They say:

“Peerless synthesizer containing nine sound engines, such as realistic piano, richly expressive electric piano, tonewheel organ, digital synthesis, and powerful analog/physical modeling.”

We say:

Actually, this is the crux of the matter. Whilst soft synth and samplers like Kontakt, undoubtedly have the edge in terms of string and brass sounds, just because of the sheer huge size of the libraries and the amount of processing power available to your average audio PC or MAC, in terms of Pianos, Electric Pianos and Organs, there is very little if any difference between the top end Software versions and the onboard sounds within KRONOS. They are just uniformly excellent. To accurately capture the rich character of a concert piano, Korg abandoned working within the limitations of existing sampling methods and took advantage Virtual Memory Technology (VMT), able to play large samples directly from the internal high-capacity Solid State Disk (SSD).

Whether you’re playing  Rock, Pop, Jazz or Restaurant music, these are some of the best  keyboard samples available. Korg have such a long history of wrestling and squeezing samples to get the very best out of them, that now they have the luxury of Gigabytes of sample RAM, (Approximately 2GB of available PCM RAM and a doubled SSD capacity of 62 GB ) they are just superb at  tailoring the sounds, and I would defy anyone to not find a usable Piano, E.Piano or Organ from the vast palette available in KRONOS.

 

They say:

“16-part Combis allow all engines to function together in perfect harmony;”

We say:

Again. This is one of the key strengths to the KRONOS and its compatriots.

Yes, it’s perfectly possible to combine different soft synths within a DAW, and to play them all on MIDI channel 1, but hardly anyone ever does, and yet, the bods at Korg have been doing this for decades. At first it was an attempt to bolster some fairly weedy Programs sounds into a fatter, more usable whole, but as memory size has increased, and the Programs themselves have become  hugely powerful sounding in their own right, the Combi’s have allowed the programmers to take some very cool (and in some cases, weird) flights of fancy.

On a more practical level, for the gigging musician, the ability to split a keyboard into say, Bass in the Left hand and Piano in the right, is a necessity, and the nice thing about the Kronos, is auditioning/changing the various voices is a doddle.

 

They Say:

“On-board sequencer offers 16 MIDI tracks + 16 audio tracks (24-bit, 48kHz recording quality)”

We Say:

For those of us blessed enough to run fully fledged DAWS on powerful computers with large, multiple monitors. The idea of the old ‘workstation’ type sequencer seems antiquated and laughable, but hold on, and take a closer look. As with everything else, the sequencer has actually borrowed from the best of what’s gone before, and is now a very usable and powerful tool. The 16-track audio recorder simultaneously captures up to four tracks of 16-bit/24-bit uncompressed data at a sampling rate of 48 kHz, it has mixer automation and editing functions such as copy, paste, and normalize, and a USB CD-burner so you could assemble your album right from the TouchView display.

 

They say:

“Open Sampling System – Instant sampling and resampling from any mode:”

We say:

It’s true, and very, very powerful, once you’ve got your head around it.

You can use KRONOS to sample an external audio source, or to resample the performance of the KRONOS itself. User samples can be edited using operations such as truncate, normalize, time stretch, or time slice. Edited samples can also be exported in AIFF or WAVE format. You can also load external samples in AIFF, WAVE, SoundFont 2.0, and AKAI S1000/3000 formats via USB memory. By loading samples that you’ve previously created on other instruments or on a PC, you can set up your music production system on the KRONOS.

Essentially, you just need to put the time in to get to know your instrument. Once you’ve seen the Korg ‘power-users’ getting the kind of results you’d expect from a fully fledged DAW, you’ll be very surprised at the amount of creativity this offers you.

 

They say:

Sophisticated KARMA® technology generates infinitely variable performance-driven phrases, musical effects, and backing tracks to catalyze your creativity

We say:

Monkey Nuts.

Seriously.                                       

Monkey Nuts……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They say:

“Set List mode: Organize the Programs, Combis, and Songs you need to perform your set in a single, easy-to-select screen – including performance notes!”

We say:

Phenomenal idea. For any gigging musician, especially if playing solo, this is an absolute Godsend.

Again, you need to learn how to drive it, but this is so good.

Essentially, you can load up your various Combi’s ,Presets, Programs etc. IN THE ORDER YOU’RE GONNA NEED THEM!!!!

So, for example if your first song relies on a Huge Electronic Pad with a cutting edge high synth lead line, and your second needs to feature a lush Grand Piano with backing strings, you can just programme whatever you need into your setlist, hit the track name, and Voila, the sounds you need are there right away. None of the struggling changing patches and jabbing frantically at buttons of old, just a seamless transition between songs, and because of the Smooth Sound Transition feature, the notes will flow from one to the other without a hitch or glitch.

Also, if someone, changes the set-list on the fly, it’s as easy as just picking the correct song name.

Very cool.

They say:

  • Direct support for playing drums and chords from Korg pad-equipped USB controllers, including the nanoPAD, nanoPAD2, padKONTROL; general support for all class-compliant USB controllers, including the Korg nano series and microKEY series
  • Support for the KRONOS Editor and Plug-in Editor software
  • USB Ethernet adapter compatibility enables high-speed data communication between the KRONOS X and your computer.

We say:

Does what it says on the tin. Complete communication between control devices, your computer and their own editing software. Can’t ask for any more.

They say:

“Comprehensive interface, based around a large 8” TFT TouchView™ display”

We say:

Hallelujah! The biggest and best touch screen of the whole range. Very easy to see everything you need, and very intuitive to use.

 

So, will you do it?

Will you allow yourself to indulge this Christmas?

Well here’s one final Cherry on the Christmas Pud.

It’s just come down in price.  LN46685

Happy Christmas to you.

You deserve it.